How should age affect the Senators, and notes on Gonchar’s milestone, Ottawa’s injuries, the team’s outside ranking, and the unflappable Eugene Melnyk, but first. . .
The Ottawa Senators’ 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night was not as bad as it looked.
“We worked hard coming back into the zone,” Clouston said Monday. “We created turnovers, (but) we did nothing with the turnovers. Therefore, we get the puck, do nothing with it, it ends up being turned over again in our zone, and you just spend the whole game on that vicious rollercoaster, and we just couldn’t get off of it.”
To tackle the X’s and O’s, Clouston spent Monday’s practice on what the team didn’t do against the Canadiens: supporting each other, especially their defencemen.
“We worked on breakouts, regroups, everything under pressure, making sure we have a plan once we gain puck possession,” he said. “We did a good job of creating turnovers just about every time we had numbers at our blue line, which we wanted. We gained puck possession ... and we didn’t do anything with the puck. The result was that we ended up in our zone way too much.”
It’s the subtle differences that make it all the much harder to engrain.
Cap troubles bind Ottawa’s hands from digging them out of this hole, and Alfredsson’s success highlights team’s malaise, but first. . .
From the Ottawa Citizen, holes are everywhere in Ottawa’s ship,
“It’s not just one thing. If it was one thing, you could address it. But it seems to be all parts of our game. Obviously, getting the puck to the net and creating offensive opportunities and taking care of our own end and getting outworked at times.” — Chris Kelly, following Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Put into the most simplistic terms, the Senators don’t shoot enough, don’t defend enough and endure way too many lapses where they don’t seem to do anything at all.
The top players must show more than the limited flashes of inspired play they’ve shown so far. The Senators have scored 16 goals in eight games. At a mere two goals per game, that’s the worst output of all 30 NHL teams.
There are problems just about everywhere. If there’s a positive, it’s that the supposed weak link of the team, goaltending, has been fine, if not spectacular. Still, goaltenders can’t win without offensive and defensive support.
What is left for the team to do?
Elliott’s numbers should finally play in his favour, Murray attempts to address lacking defensive confidence in Kuba’s absence, Leclaire hits ice again, and Kovalev remembers the value of hard work, but first. . .
Following Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins and general manager Bryan Murray’s outburst Wednesday about underachieving players and trade possibilities, Thursday’s workout featured significant changes.
Struggling defenceman Erik Karlsson was bumped from the first power-play unit, which will now feature forwards Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and Mike Fisher along with defenceman Sergei Gonchar.
“Just creating more shot opportunities, getting more shots to the net,” Clouston said when asked about the new alignment. “Having a net presence. Teams are pressuring us a lot, so we want to make sure we’re in position to relieve pressure, whether it’s closer passes or options where we put pucks in the corners.”
Thursday’s practice also featured a lengthy drill on proper line changes. The Penguins made the Senators pay for a penalty for too many men on the ice on Monday night, and Ottawa led NHL with 13 such penalties during the 2009-10 season.
A passive team? They bag skate. A bad power play? They switch it up. A failure to change lines? They go back to the basics. It almost makes sense.
Ottawa not displaying mobility that Gonchar was supposed to usher in, Hale comes up with Ottawa desperate for defensive dependability, Smith sent down to get back into form, Clouston losing patience with Ottawa’s lack of focus, and Kovalev looking as listless as ever, but first. . .
When Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray holds a press conference, it usually comes with a couple jokes, a handful of ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ asides and a big helping of coyness.
On Wednesday morning, there was no such joviality. With his team sitting last in the National Hockey League standings and fans panicking left and right, this was all business. So it was an angry, blunt Murray who stepped to the podium after coach Cory Clouston ran his squad through a breath-stealing bag skate at Scotiabank Place.
Few escaped his criticism and all heard this threat: “I’ve talked to a number of people, as I said. I talked to (Minnesota Wild general manager) Chuck Fletcher for a long time yesterday and said, ‘can I help you, you help me’ type of thing, so we’re talking to management of other teams, trying to find if there is a need and a possibility of making a move. That’s not always the solution, but I think it’s something that maybe sends a little message to our players, so we will continue to pursue something.”
If you wanted to boil it down to a sentence, it would go something like this: Get it together if you like living here.
Anything for a win, right? Hopefully not quite so.
Ottawa needs to stop laundering its goalies, Alfie, Gonchar, and Kovalev aren’t the only ones with milestones for the season, update on demotions, promotions, and injuries, and update on Murray trade discussions, but first. . .
Their 1-4-1 start is not the worst the Ottawa Senators have ever had.
It doesn’t even begin to approach the franchise’s first few years in the National Hockey League. Like 1992-93, when the Senators won their first game, but didn’t earn their second victory until game No. 23. Or like 1993-94, when they didn’t get their first win until game No. 7, or 1994-95, when they didn’t get their first win until game No. 9.
Even as a mature team over the past five years they’ve had some poor starts. Two seasons ago, they were only one win better after six games (2-3-1) and in 2006-07 — the season in which they went to the Stanley Cup final — they were just one point better (2-4-0).
“It’s like we’re one step behind and not going with our instincts,” Alfredsson said.
“We do that when the game is kind of out of hand, and start pushing them pretty good, and play really well, and it’s like ‘Where was this in the first period?’ It’s probably a mental thing more than anything.”
It’s not what you’ve done for me, it’s what you’re doing for me now. For the moment, not much at all, and reminiscing will do nothing to soften the blow.
After being tied for the league lead in bench minors in 2009-10 in with 13, the Senators committed their second too-many-men sin of the season before the midway mark of the opening period. Having already killed off an earlier penalty, Ottawa could not survive this one. Mark Letestu’s goal was the first of three unanswered in a 6:23 span. The Senators could never recover, ultimately dropping a 5-2 decision to the Penguins.
Teenage rookie Robin Lehner made his second NHL appearance after the Penguins went up 5-1 at 10:32 of the second period, but Brian Elliot was not to blame for the predicament the Senators were in at that point. He had only stopped 17-of-22, but the last two to beat him were of the unfortunate variety and came 25 seconds apart.
The first, by Pascal Dupuis, went in off Erik Karlsson’s stick after an initial point shot went off Sergei Gonchar. The play might have been stopped before that had Alex Kovalev taken Crosby out rather than his fly-by. The goal that chased Elliott was a slap shot from the point that deflected off the stick of Jarkko Ruutu in the high slot area.
Lehner wound up stopping all seven shots he faced, likely creating legions to suggest he get the start against the Sabres.
It’s not the end of the season, but at this point, for being last in the League and so many other signs, Ottawa should be thinking about it’s long term game plan, and owning up to the uncomfortable truth of their situation.
Fisher laid bare in strip shootout at practice, Gonchar looks to find way back in Pittsburgh but needs Clouston’s help, and hoping for Michalek to put on a show for his brother, but first. . .
THE STORY: It’s only five games in, but the Ottawa Senators would be wise not to underestimate the hole they’re digging for themselves. Golf courses are often littered with players who dominated in the second halves of the seasons, only to fall short because they couldn’t gain enough ground on teams embroiled in three-point contests every night. If they lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Northeast Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs beat the injury-depleted New York Islanders Monday night, the Senators will trail by seven points despite having played one match fewer. How’s that for a wake-up call?
THE QUOTE: “I don’t think we’re at or near the bottom of the league in terms of our ability. We don’t see ourselves that way. We see ourselves as a better team than that. Stats, you can use them anyway you want, and five games to me is not indicative of what this team can do, or is able to do. It may be this is where we’re at, at this point in time, but that’s not where we feel we’re going. We’re more concerned about our overall game and just sticking with our foundation. That’s our biggest concern.” — Senators coach Cory Clouston, downplaying the Senators’ struggles so far.
One piece at a time, the Senators appear to be catching on, but trouble lies ahead if they can’t get it and hold it together quickly.
Clouston helps top line find chemistry, Foligno could see suspension for blindside hit (updated), Leclaire leaves game early with injury, finds himself quickly shelled by media, and an update on Lehner’s status, Ottawa rink absences, and the nature of Leclaire’s injury, but first. . .
Nothing was simple about the Ottawa Senators’ first victory of the season, a nailbiting 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
Mike Fisher scored the winning goal, his second of the game, with 5:57 remaining and Hurricanes winger Jussi Jokinen in the penalty box. The goal ended the Senators’ 0-for-17 power-play drought to start the season.
“Hopefully, we can build on that and keep getting the chances,” said Fisher, unquestionably the Senators’ best player. “It’s going to be a big part of our game going forward and, hopefully, we’ll keep rolling.”
Despite the two points, it was a roller coaster game, even with Leclaire being thrown from the ride before it even set off.
Power play an early focus for Sens, careful goalie decisions needed (updated), Spezza has extra motivation this season, Alfredsson recognized for his place in the community, and a delightfully sobering reality check for those Senators fans currently bemoaning Toronto’s perfect start thus far, but first. . .
From Senators Extra, on tonight’s chance for redemption against Carolina,
THE WILDCARD: Daniel Alfredsson. He was questionable for this one but insisted Wednesday he’s good to go. With his team in desperate need for offence, it’s once again time for the captain to step up. He’s posted very un-Alfie-like numbers so far (one assist, minus-two through three games), which might lead some to question whether father time is finally catching up with the ageless wonder.
THE OPPONENT: The Carolina Hurricanes weren’t expected to be in the playoff mix this season, but don’t tell them that — they opened the season with two straight wins. Sure, they were against the Minnesota Wild (who are expected to bring up the rear in the Western Conference), but points are points. Unfortunately for them, those wins came in Europe, so fatigue could be a factor Thursday night.
No time like the present for the Senators to get going, with a conveniently devilish schedule ahead.
Clouston maintains goalie mystique, the players turn to each other to demand better play, an update on Robin Lehner’s visa issues, and an update on Alfredsson’s status for tomorrow, but first. . .
From the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa’s power play still stalling,
Yet perhaps the ugliest, most glaring statistics have come on the power play. Check that. Have not come on the power play. Through three games, the Senators have gone 0-for-14 with the man advantage, including an 0-for-5 display in Monday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals.
Rather, it has been a matter of the Senators generating little sustained pressure. Accordingly, the fear factor — opponents wary of being over-aggressive to avoid seeing a potent power play hop over the boards — has gone down.
Among the many other changes which are necessary, Gonchar must make quicker decisions at the blue-line, passing or shooting before opponents block the lanes to the net. One significant change is that Gonchar is now setting up on the left boards on the power play, as opposed to the right side while he was with the Penguins. [...] That ‘adjustment’ has also been made more difficult because the star players saw limited action together on the power play during training camp.
At what point should the Senators sound the alarm? How many players only meetings until they should begin to feel uncomfortably energetic?
Native of Northern California. Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.
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My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked. I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind. When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom. It hasn't, I don't think it will. At all.
Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.
I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.
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